The Big Green Parenting Experiment

raising a healthy family in a toxic world

the truth about breastfeeding

My baby has officially turned one.  This has caused me to do some serious reflecting on the last year.  For the most part I think about all of the things that I’ve learned and IF we ever choose to have another child, what would I do differently?  And what would I do the same?  This thought undoubtedly brings me to one thing.  Breastfeeding.

When I was pregnant, I was so sure that I would breastfeed.  I read books and took classes and it all seemed like rainbows and sunshine.  Guess what… NOT SO.  I have found breastfeeding to be a huge challenge.  I have encountered almost all of the negative things that one can while breastfeeding.  And, honestly, I had no idea that there were so many things that could go wrong.  Everyone made it seem so easy and natural and instinctual and beautiful.  No one ever mentioned that this may not be the case for everyone.  This post is not intended to discourage anyone, in any way, from breastfeeding.  Afterall, we’ve made it twelve months and counting, even with all of the set backs.  I just want to pass along the information that I wish I had going in.  Breastfeeding is, in fact natural, beautiful and beneficial for mommy and baby.  But easy???  No.  Not for everyone.

Here are my experiences and some facts regarding each…

1.  Proper latch.  This generally takes time and sometimes assistance.  I was in too much of an emotional, sleep deprived, new mom state to even think about asking for help.  Perhaps it’s because the lactation nurses at the hospital where Schy was born all gave me different advice and were somewhat rough about the whole thing.  I just couldn’t bear to have another person pulling, twisting and prodding me.  I did consult La Leche League online with various questions and they were quite helpful.  Latching is hard.  And it hurts. I know, I know… if it hurts than something is wrong.  The fact is, this is a very sensitive area that isn’t used to intense suction and gnawing.  With time and practice we got it right.  Hang in there.

2.  Plugged ducts.  This is a recurrent problem that I’ve had the entire twelve months that I’ve been breastfeeding.  My doctor blames my “narrow ducts that just developed that way”.  La Leche League gave me list of possible culprits such as wearing tight-fitting clothing, putting pressure on my breasts (sleeping on my stomach, baby carrier, etc.) and waiting too long between nursing sessions among other things.  I didn’t fit into any of the categories.  I have one of those babies that literally nursed every hour.  She still nurses quite frequently for her age and would all night if I allowed her to.  Plugged ducts are excruciating!  The pain from the first one woke me up out of a sound sleep.  It was horrible.  I was severely engorged and in tears.  I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t even touch it.  I made it through the night (barely… and crying) and called my doctor first thing the next morning.  I survived and then learned pretty quickly that this wouldn’t be a one time thing for me.  Eventually I learned how to anticipate the problem and resolve it before it evolved into the dreaded… mastitis!  Eek!

3.  Mastitis.  A very painful infection, often resulting from unresolved blocked ducts.  In addition to the obvious pain in the immediate area of the infection, there is fever, chills and flu-like symptoms.  And they come on fast.  The above mentioned first blocked duct experience did, unfortunately lead to mastitis.  It was horrifying.  As if being a sleep deprived basket case wasn’t enough.  Now I had some serious pain, weakness and illness to deal with.  Luckily, with the antibiotic treatment, the worst symptoms subsided after just a couple of days.  Mastitis requires pretty immediate treatment so it doesn’t become an even worse infection.  I ended up suffering with this twice.  I also learned in the process that you have to be quite careful about using antibiotics, which can strip the body of necessary bacteria’s and ultimately lead to thrush in both mom and baby.  I am pretty sure that we started to experience this after the second round of antibiotics, so I quickly altered my diet to limit foods that yeast thrives on.  It seemed to helped and we never had to be treated for thrush.  Phew.

These are three common problems that one can encounter while breastfeeding.  Remember, many women are able to breastfeed with no issues whatsoever and maybe you are one of them.  Oh, how I envy you!  Breastfeeding truly is a wonderful, natural, beautiful thing, but it most certainly is not easy for everyone.  Don’t be discouraged.  There is a [good] chance that there will be bumps along the way.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not your baby’s fault.  It’s not easy.  Don’t give up.

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